Ian Bourland

  • picks October 28, 2009

    Siah Armajani

    Siah Armajani’s latest exhibition takes up the brutal but largely invisible violence that erupted in the wake of this year’s contested Iranian presidential election. Although the artist, who was born in Tehran and lives in Minneapolis, has built environments that interrogate the spatial contours of the “public sphere” for decades, his recent work underscores more explicitly the human cost of Middle Eastern politics. Fallujah, 2005, for example, combines large-scale neo-Minimalist volumes with domestic objects to illustrate a collapsed family home in the Iraqi city, using universal form to give

  • picks October 22, 2009

    T. V. Santhosh

    Jean Baudrillard wrote three articles between January and March of 1991, arguing that the first Gulf War “did not take place.” He noted that the new era of war fighting—its prosecution and our perceptions of it—was so entangled with information and communication technology that our fight was in many respects virtual, one in which images rather than events became the “real.” In the subsequent two decades, we began to see more and more conflicts around the globe (from Rwanda to Afghanistan) beamed into our homes, omnipresent but diluted in their sanitized persistence. In his current exhibition,

  • picks October 06, 2009

    Allan Sekula

    In “Polonia and Other Fables,” photographer Allan Sekula documents Polonia, the diasporic zone of expatriated Poles—an “imagined community,” in Sekula’s words—in which he immersed himself during the past three years. The forty pictures in the exhibition, a joint commission of Chicago’s Renaissance Society and the Zacheta National Gallery in Warsaw, plumb the links between the two cities—migration, hibernal light, hardscrabble working-class conditions—through a mosaic of fragments.

    “Polonia” finds Sekula modulating fluidly between street photography, aerial surveillance, and hagiographic portraiture,

  • picks October 05, 2009

    Chris Ofili

    British painter Chris Ofili is known for his chromatically bold and texturally dense pictures of lovers, spirits, and monkeys, which are usually supported by spheres of elephant dung. Ofili’s recent works, however, have moved beyond his familiar pop-cultural pastiche and base materiality. “Afro Margin,” a suite of eight pencil drawings made between 2004 and 2007, marks this transition and reveals an unexpected delicacy and rigor in his process.

    Ofili began each drawing with the same bounding principle, an organic yet rigid colonnade of the “Afro heads” that appear as aboriginal constellations in

  • picks September 28, 2009

    “The Austerity Cookbook”

    Given recent emphasis on immersive and site-specific installation, it is easy to write off many new works as gimmicky. Nonetheless, “The Austerity Cookbook,” at Minneapolis’s Soap Factory, uses these conceits to stirring effect. The space, a sort of steampunk fun house, is in many ways the star of the show.

    The Soap Factory’s massive volumes retain the patina of age and provide airy tableaux for incipient practices. The exhibition began with an invitation to emerging artists to arrive with a receptiveness to the raw and unheated environment. As a result, the finished pieces do not feel grafted